Neighbors react to 20 Henry’s status

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

After news erupted yesterday about the ill-fated 20 Henry development — AIG, its financier, is suing the developers to regain control of the property  — BHB headed over to the scene to check out what neighbors have to say. We also took some photos of the building’s current state (and of the closed sales gallery), which are after the break.

Daniel Palladino, 48, who lives on Hicks Street, likes the premise of the reconstruction project, but admitted that this one is in a sticky situation. “I think it’s great that they don’t tear down these old buildings — but if they ended up abandoning this building, it’d be worse,” he said. “I think it would have been better not to start than leave it like this, and if they bug out and there’s no financing, then it becomes a hazard and a blight.”

And then we found three residents from 65 Middagh St., the building next door to 20 Henry’s western wall, arriving home. The residents didn’t want their names in print, but had a lot to say:

1: “It’s just a general mess, it’s an eyesore, and it’s dangerous. If they couldn’t finish what they started, they should not have started. What we had before wasn’t great but it was better than this. There’s a certain problem with mice, and it’s left in this state of neglect. We park our cars under the scaffolding, and the idea was we’d be inconvenienced for three months, but now it’s been a long time.”

“It makes an already chaotic block even more complicated,” the resident added, pointing to the fire station across the street, a church, and PS 8 at the far western end. “It’s a tricky block.”

2: “This is a sign of the times. It’s a sign happening all over the country. The canary-in-the-mineshaft really is that they’re paying rent on the scaffolding, and we’re in bad shape if it’s in this shape as long as that’s up.”

3: “It is kind of frustrating! I wish we had neighbors. And, when it rains, water comes pouring out of the building all the time” because of leaks in the unfinished building.

Another neighbor, Adam Obinger, 25, lives around the corner on Henry Street and was more at peace with the construction site. “I’ve just gotten used to it — it’s ugly, but it’s been up for a long time now,” he said. “There’s no progress being made, so I wouldn’t mind seeing work start and it finish, or [the scaffolding] just coming down. I’m fine with the building.”

Albert Tablante, 63, an attorney walking down Middagh Street, called the building “an eyesore.” “You have all the scaffolding and the netting and the sidewalk protection, which could be here forever,” he said. “The other question is, how long will this temporary support be here before it collapses?”

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  • AEB

    I live a block away from 20 Henry, and though I don’t relish the idea of seeing a “ghost” superstructure becoming increasingly decrepit and thus unsightly, I recall the vacant building before any work was done to restore it.

    Not pretty. And ghostly in its own way. More spectral, because it appeared untouched by any interest.

    Let’s hope the situation is resolved and the building beautifully restored.

  • Neighborhood Observer

    All the construction related signs have been removed, including the directions to call 311 to report an unsafe condition! What we lost in this unhappy process is moderate income housing for artists, a lot of beautiful old trees and a garden that was nice to look at and sit in. Wonder what happened to the sculpture in the middle. We should insist that the owners maintain the property including the sidewalk on the Middagh Stree side, which is strewn with garbage.

  • another jen

    aha – I live a block away too and maybe this explains the mouse that wandered in a few weeks ago. this building could be so beautiful, even if it’s redone in a very simple way. I hope it’s resolved soon.

  • Pierrepont

    What on Earth is embattled AIG (idiotic insurance company) gonna do with a building at 20 Henry St?! Can’t you just picture it… Government bailout money being used to rehab the candy factory. Further proof that American society has lost its collective mind, if you ask me.

  • AEB

    …(try to) make money from/off it, Pierrepont.

  • a parent

    AIG could help restore its extremely fouled reputation by agreeing to pay for the construction of a new middle school there.

  • DAB

    At least the firehouse is nearby and those guys will surely notice anything drastically unsafe. Neighborhood Observer speaks my mind, otherwise.

  • williams

    more than likely it’s one of aig’s private equity subs who wants it. keep an eye out for some high-rolling hedge fund types (well, not so high anymore).

  • Mike

    So if there’s no construction going on, who do we need to talk to about getting our parking back? They’ve got a half-block worth of “No Parking – Construction” there, and anyone who parks locally knows there aren’t spots to spare…

  • West

    What generally wasn’t noticed was that they removed a major part of the roof to create duplexes on the sixth floor. Now that the windows are boarded up you can’t see the hole. How long will it take for the structure to be compromised?

    If you look from Henry St. into the hole where the garden was , you can see a pit filled with water. When will the mosquitoes arrive?

  • Zeekers

    I rent across the street and was looking forward to buying there (before 500K for a studio made it impossible) I hope whoever takes over finishes the job and brings down the buying cost so it’s not full of Eurotrash.

    Locals just can’t afford it in today’s market.

  • since47

    And when it’s finally completed, it will mean more apartments that nobody will be able to afford. I think ‘a parent’ has the right idea: turn it into the much talked-about middle school (right down the block from PS 8 – how perfect) and forget about putting it in DUMBO, smack in the middle of a traffic nightmare.

  • jiker

    let the artists move back in!

  • Luke C

    This lack of commitment to a project is exactly why we should always challenge developer’s plans. We’ve now evicted a thriving community of artist, destroyed communal open space and public art, lost parking (did we give them a prop. tax abatement too?!)…and all we get for it is an eyesore. Next time maybe we’ll defend our functional community better against greedy developers.

  • nabeguy

    To all that are interested, the PTA of PS 8 is having a general meeting on Wednesday 4/22 with the guest speaker being reps from the SCA. If you have any questions or concerns about 20 Henry vis a vis the middle school question, this might be the forum to raise your voice.